Friday, 19th of March 2010.
I woke up early, I think about 6.30am. I was actually not going to work that day I was going on a stag do to Prague in the Czech Republic for the weekend. I had never been to Prague before, I was pretty excited about it all as the group of lads were friends of a friend of mine. It was very cool to be getting to know people in Dublin at last as I had been living in the city 6 months and I was in need of making some friends. I have to be honest it was a fairly lonely time living in a big new city having come from Limerick, knowing very little people. I was still open to living in Dublin but I was struggling to live so far away from home, this was all pre Joanne also. Unbeknownst to me I must have been stressed by my situation, I didn't like my work either pre my current job which I am in 7 years. I digress, I got up out of bed to go to the toilet and to start getting myself ready to head to the airport. I finished in the toilet and just like that I experienced something utterly bizarre, I will try my best to describe it. As I opened my bedroom door, my head started spinning (it was like my brain was a spinning top and my eyes could not focus), naturally I was freaked out as I did not know what was happening. I struggled to my bed to lie down, maybe I thought what was happening would go away, I didn't understand what to do or what was going on. I attempted to lie down but then it got worse what ever was happening, I just couldn't comprehend this. By now I am getting concerned, I was meant to be in the airport for 9am. Despite feeling worse lying down I tried to, I thought I could sleep it off. I just couldn't stay lying down though. In the meantime like a bolt of lightning it got worse, my entire left side of my body went limp. It took me 25 mins to get off my bed, on to the floor and out to the landing. Someone good was looking down on me that day, my housemates had the day off too.
I shouted down to them, I needed help, but my speech was slurred. My housemates ran straight up, they also didn't know what to do. The first thing we did well they did, was call my health insurance provider, the person on the phone's suggestion "Go back to bed it is probably the flu". I knew despite my utter confusion this was not the flu, I have had the flu you know the proper one, and I don't know about you but you don't lose feeling in your body or have slurred speech. Thankfully my housemates drove, they whisked me off straight away to their doctor. It was for the best because it would get me quicker in to the hospital if I had to go. Maybe it was because of my symptoms but the doctor brought me in straight away ahead of 4 other patients. The doctor uttered these words that I will never forget..
"Willem I think you have had a brain haemorrhage"
In my confused state as it was I thought "hang on did he say brain haemorrhage". "Sorry what did you say because did you say brain haemorrhage", "Yes Willem, I am calling Beaumont now, I can organise the ambulance unless your friend can take you over as it will be quicker, you need to get there immediately before it gets worse". "Worse! how do you mean worse", "The quicker we act with you the better, you are very lucky to have your housemates". Like that my housemate raced across Dublin, I kept thinking and replaying everything in my head, hearing you have had a brain haemorrhage, is this real life because this cannot be happening. I have never felt so frightened in my entire life going in to a hospital. I was treated like a celebrity when we arrived at Beaumont, they first gave me blood thinners to ensure no blood clots would reoccur. Then came all the tests, it was one after another, ECG, CT, MRI and PET scans followed. All I wanted was my family and thank god, the minute I told them when I got to the doctors they literally raced up to Dublin.
With the tests done, it was clear.. I had suffered from two blood clots to my brain. My doctor was incredible, he is a professor at Beaumont, I am not sure I should mention his name but his team and his expertise were amazing. It is because of him I am still here today. He was also able to tell me prior to these blood clots he could see evidence of a previous blood clot, this is evidenced by bruising on the brain. He was 100% right because the previous summer I had been in Holland for a week with my parents. One afternoon after quite a long walk in the sun with my mum, I had come back to our holiday bungalow. I went to the kitchen for a drink, and my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed. I blacked out briefly maybe 30 seconds max. I did feel sick but no other symptoms like what happened earlier that morning. We called the doctor near where we were staying and resolved to the fact it was probably sunstroke, but when I told my professor in Beaumont he was most certain it was my original Stroke.
The 19th of March I suffered 2 more strokes and with the one in the summer 2009, that was three in total. Post the 19th of March I was tested like a guinea pig for days and they eventually found the answer. It turned out I had a sizeable hole in my heart, everyone is born with these holes and they close soon after birth, mine didn't and was now about the size of a Punt piece. What this meant was blood clots can leak from one side of the heart to the other, and like that travelled straight to my cerebellum. One week after my stroke and a big ol cocktail of blood thinning drugs, a heart specialist sowed up my heart just like that. Two weeks after my stroke I was out and heading home to Limerick my feeling had come back about 60-70% and I was able to walk again albeit just about and quite slowly. It was about 3 months before I was fully back on track, but I was left with no lasting effects. I was incredibly lucky that my housemates were there that day as I am not sure what would have happened otherwise. The only last effects now are sporadic, the odd time my speech can get slurry, or my memory can just disappear for a while and I will find it very hard to remember stuff but it does come back. I call it "Brain Fog" thankfully it doesn't happen too much anymore but when it does it is very frustrating but I still count myself very lucky to have no major lasting effects.
This brings me to today, I received some news yesterday about someone who passed away and it triggered me to do a post like this. You see for so long after my stroke, I did found it difficult to come to terms with what had happened, but eventually I started to really value my life and cherish it more than ever. That day on the 19th of March 2010, it could have been the end ( it sounds gloomy and morbid but I am keenly aware of that) had I not got to the doctor, I don't know. Up until yesterday I have not thought about that day too much in a long time, I still shudder when I pass Beaumont hospital in the car but I had slightly blotted it all out. I want people to go away from this post with a couple of points. First look after yourself, if you are not well go to the doctor do not let it fester and put it off. I am not saying go because you have a cold, go if you don't feel right none of us want to leave this life especially not early. Second, read the link below and act FAST for people if you suspect if they have had a stroke, you can save their life. Thirdly and finally, enjoy the shit out of life it is precious and we are so lucky to be here, alive and experiencing this crazy thing. It has taken the death of someone to make me think about something I said to myself 7 years ago would actually galvanise my thought process on life. Why do I stress over the stupidest of shit sometimes, it is all meaningless garbage, live your life and do what ever makes you happy.
FAST Campaign : https://irishheart.ie/your-health/learn-about-stroke/act-fast/